Casey Luskin of The Discovery Institute wrote a series of posts where he attempts in vain to help students “find a fact” that supports intelligent design (ID). Apparently, several students sent letters to the Discovery Institute in response to their professor’s challenge for them to find a fact that supports ID. Luskin came up with what amounts to be crap (unsurprisingly).
In the first part of my response to Luskin, I am going to analyze his premise that “ID provides a framework for developing novel hypotheses.” In other words, how ID is relevant in any way. He first starts by discussing several points that he believes shows how intelligent agents act when they design something:
(1) Intelligent agents think with an “end goal” in mind, allowing them to solve complex problems by taking many parts and arranging them in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (e.g. complex and specified information).
Already I see a problem with Luskin reasoning. He believes that the more complex something is, the more it is designed. This is demonstrably false. Take for example a sidewalk. Made of almost pure cement, a sidewalk is anything but complex and contains little “information.” Yet, it is clearly designed.
(2) Intelligent agents can rapidly infuse large amounts of information into systems:
Ok, but intelligent agents can also remove large amounts of information, like in my sidewalk example.
(3) Intelligent agents ‘re-use’ functional components that work over and over in different systems (e.g., wheels for cars and airplanes).
When humans make things, they reuse the same parts over and over. Screws, nuts, etc. are often the exact same size even in products that are made in different parts of the world. In nature, we see as many different sized “screws” as we do organisms. Designing something like this doesn’t make sense.
(4) Intelligent agents typically create functional things.
Fair enough (at least for the things that don’t end up in the garbage).
Luskin then goes on to say that these observations (as flawed as they are) can be used to generate hypotheses that lead to predictions. (well, Luskin said “generate hypotheses based upon testable predictions,” but I think we know what he meant). Here are his four general predictions:
(1) Natural structures will be found that contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (e.g. complex and specified information).
This is not a prediction. This is a centuries old observation of the workings of the world. Retrodiction does not equal prediction so this one fails.
(2) Forms containing large amounts of novel information will appear in the fossil record suddenly and without similar precursors.
Again this is not really a prediction as much as it is an observation of current paleontology. However, I would say that you are hard pressed to find good examples of this. If ID were true, you should expect to see hundreds of examples in the literature. I am having a real hard time thinking of even one.
(3) Convergence will occur routinely. That is, genes and other functional parts will be re-used in different and unrelated organisms.
Ok, finally something we can really address. Yes, we already knew about convergance before the birth of Intelligent design, but lets ignore that for now. One example that comes to mind is the convergance of flight. Let’s compare wings and see if we see those same screws, nuts, etc. between organisms. Do we see the same type of wing between birds and bats? obviously we don’t. How about birds and insects, or bats and insects? Nope, not very similar at all. I guess we can say they all flap in their own way, but is that enough to satisfy an ID propoent? Apparantly..
(4) Much so-called “junk DNA” will turn out to perform valuable functions.
This prediction could have been made by evolution also. Like the old saying goes, use it or lose it. Besides, what does he mean by “much”? This is a typical vague prediction that is easy to fulfill without really having any meaning.
So far, I am not impressed with Luskin’s answer to the professor’s challenge. If this is all that the Discovery Institute has to offer the students, they are in for a failing grade. In part 2, I will examine Luskin’s “facts” in detail.